According to TAPAS (Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society), http://www.tapasociety.org/, tempranillo is the sixth most widely planted grape variety in the world. This surprised me, because tempranillo doesn’t exactly roll off the tongues of consumers as do cabernet, chardonnay, merlot, pinot noir and shiraz.
I was happy, however, to discover that TAPAS had declared September 1 International Tempranillo Day. The event was played up by the Rioja PR campaign in the USA but completely ignored in Rioja.
Here, most of the PR money goes to the promotion of ‘Rioja’, even though tempranillo accounts for 85% of the volume of red grapes and more and more red Riojas are made exclusively with this variety. I suppose the Rioja Regulatory Council is deterred by the fact that tempranillo is also grown in Ribera del Duero, Valdepeñas, Penedès and other regions in Spain as well as overseas, including the USA, Australia, and Uruguay. It irritates me however, that Rioja hasn’t capitalized on being the birthplace and earliest defender of this great varietal.
There is, however, one event that promotes excellence in tempranillo: an international tasting competition called Tempranillos al Mundo (Tempranillos to the World), organized by the Spanish Winemakers’ Federation. http://www.enologo.com/tempranillo/en/ It was, therefore, a treat that the opening event of the 2011-12 tasting series organized by our local newspaper LA RIOJA featured the five double gold medal winners from the 2010 competition. Even more interesting was the fact that each wine was explained to the audience by the winemaker.
Gaudium 2004 (Bodegas Marqués de Cáceres-Rioja)
95% tempranillo from over 40 year old vineyards in San Vicente de la Sonsierra and Cenicero. Aged for 24 months in oak.
Medium garnet, vibrant dark fruit, spice, tobacco and after a while graham crackers. Excellent balance, long aftertaste. To me, Gaudium was the most traditional of the five wines because of the stewed fruit aromas on the nose.
Amaren ‘60’ 2004 (Bodegas Amaren-Rioja)
100% tempranillo from vineyards over 60 years old (hence the name) in Villabuena, Samaniego, Leza and Navaridas in Rioja Alavesa.
Medium garnet. Hillside plants and red fruit (cranberries). Excellent balance, good acidity.
Ochoa reserva 2005 (Bodegas Ochoa-Navarra)
55% tempranillo, 30% cabernet sauvignon, 15% merlot from the Ochoa vineyards (143 hectares with an average age of 20 years).
Fairly intense brick. Spicy and ‘pruny’. It showed good balance and firm acidity. I thought it was somewhat less complex than the other winners. Under 10 euros a bottle, so a really great deal.
Viña del Olivo 2007 (Bodegas Contino-Rioja)
88% tempranillo, 12% graciano from the vineyards surrounding the estate in Laserna in Rioja Alavesa.
Intense garnet. Dark fruit, floral (from the graciano?), great balance and elegance.
Hiru 3 Racimos (Bodegas Luis Cañas-Rioja)
Medium garnet, mineral and dark fruit on the nose. Mouthfilling, elegant and ready to drink now.
I was very impressed with all five wines. There was one characteristic they shared that in my opinion make them hallmarks of a great wine – they were all produced from old vines with very low production with intense grapiness bursting from the glass. They are great examples of the tempranillo grape at its best.
Tempranillos al Mundo will be held inNew York in 2011. It will be a great opportunity to show off our star varietal to the world’s biggest market for wine.